Every team goes into every season with question marks. Some teams have more question marks, and some have more serious question marks, but every team has them. The Red Sox look to be a relatively stable team going into the 2014 season, but the one dire question mark masking their present and future roster construction is the fate of Will Middlebrooks.
Oct 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks before game four of the MLB baseball World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports
Just a year ago, Middlebrooks was one of the brightest young stars in the Red Sox system. He had crushed Triple-A before being promoted, where he forced Kevin Youkilis off of third base and eventually the team, all the time posting a .288/.325/.509 slash line before going down for the season with a wrist injury. 2013 looked to be Middlebrooks’ chance to really cement himself as the middle-of-the-order threat he was projected to be. However, he got off to a frigid start and was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Middlebrooks enjoyed some success after being promoted back to Boston in August, but another late season slump left him with a .227/.271/.425 slash line for the season.
At this stage, it’s incredibly tough to see where Middlebrooks’ career is going. He has tremendous raw power and projects as an above average defender at third base; however, his failure to draw walks and hit for contact plagued him in 2013.
Middlebrooks’ name has popped up in trade rumors all offseason, but he remains the Red Sox starting third baseman. 2014 is his time to prove that he can be an everyday player on a contending team, and on a young team with a few more question marks than usual, Middlebrooks’ performance could determine more than that.
Though the Red Sox should have a good team regardless of Middlebrooks’ performance in 2014, he could really put them over the top. If he emerges as a consistent power threat in the middle of their lineup, then that adds an entire new dimension to an offense where David Ortiz and Mike Napoli stand as the only real power threats. Middlebrooks could very well be the X-factor that determines whether the Red Sox are a good team or a great team in 2014.